You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
What would it actually take to impress words on our heart and soul? Aldous Huxley seemed to think it would take “One hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years … Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth.” There is research out that says repeating a thing often enough will eventually make us believe that it is true. While I’ve repeated and heard that assertion multiple times, I’m still skeptical.
But God, through Moses, speaks to the question. The instruction is that Israel would bind God’s commands as a sign on their hands and their forehead; that they would talk about them with their children morning, noon, and night; that they would write them on their doorposts and gates. The short version of that is that they were commanded to surround and fill themselves with the Word of God.
For the record, I don’t think that God was being literal when He said they should bind His Word as a sign on their hands and forehead. History tells us that the pharisees did and walked around with little scripture boxes strapped to themselves. This is also — for Israel, at least — not a command to tattoo verses on themselves. Israel had been commanded not to write on themselves (tattoo themselves) the same way that the nations around them did. I’m not sure what the nations around them were doing, but they were forbidden from doing the same thing. I also do not know whether or not this is a prohibition against all forms of tattoo. I have a tattoo, so it’s pretty clear that I do not believe the prohibition applies to Christians. But I also did not have the standard things tattooed on me: loved one’s names, sports team, band logo, etc. I had tattooed the beginning of a verse from The Bible as a reminder of how I came to be. One day, I’d like to complete the verse, but there are better ways of investing money, at the moment. Probably will be in perpetuity.
What I do think God is getting at is that our actions and our thoughts should be bound by the Word of God. Our hands are, to this day, symbolic of our actions. The front of our brain is where all our conscious thinking takes place. I think God is saying: Do the things I tell you. Think about the things I tell you. He doesn’t want one without the other. He doesn’t want me to do what He says, but not to think about what He said or why He might have said it. My phone hears and obeys, but cannot (at the moment) think about why I tell it to call my wife every day when I’m leaving work. That’s not what God wants for me. God also doesn’t want me to think without doing. Lots of folks do this. There is even a cliched contention that teachers do this. As a credentialed teacher who hasn’t taught in four years due to doing the things I taught, I’m going to call shenanigans on that old cliche. Though I will admit that doing what I’m doing now and teaching was difficult for the three months or so that I did both.
Back to God, He wants me to think about what He commands me and to do it. Thinking about it allows questions and leads me to the inevitable conclusion that God has given these commands for my own good (as was mentioned yesterday). Doing the things God commands allows me to prove out by experience that they are, in fact, for my own good. But more, thinking about what He has said is one of the hallmarks of a relationship. I think about the things my wife says to me and the things my family say to me and the things my friends say to me. These are people with whom I have a relationship and their words carry weight with me. So I consider them.
There are more verses that give more scope to what God wants me to do with His Word: talk about it with others during everyday tasks; talk about His Word morning, noon, and night; display His Word prominently in my home as a reminder of what I am commanded to do. But I’m going to leave off with these. To think and to do. Doing without thought is automation. Thinking without doing … sounds a lot like politics. But to think and to do results in a righteous life and a friendship with God.